What is Dolphins’ owner Stephen Ross thinking?

After the events of this past week, there’s reason to believe that Dolphins owner Stephen Ross doesn’t have a clue what he’s doing.

He started the week by flying himself, GM Jeff Ireland and new football “czar” Carl Peterson cross-country to meet with then-Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh about a position that was already being filled by Tony Sparano. In doing so, Ross left Sparano and his entire staff to believe that once he returned, they would no longer be employed by the Dolphins. (The coaching staff even began cleaning out their offices on Wednesday.)

But on Thursday, Jay Glazer of FOX Sports reported that the Dolphins had “bowed out” of the Harbaugh race and would retain Sparano as head coach. Harbaugh reportedly didn’t want to go to Miami (he signed with the 49ers on Friday), which meant Ross had to tuck his tail between his legs and try to mend fences with Sparano.

Late Friday night, Ross extended Sparano’s contract through 2013 as sort of an apology for what had transpired throughout the week. Sparano will also have an “expanded role in personnel decisions.”

The new contract and expanded role are nice coups for Sparano. But what does it say about Ross’ decision-making if he was ready to drop his current head coach as soon as Harbaugh signed on the dotted line, yet, was so quick to extend Sparano’s contract once Harbaugh told him to buzz off? Does Ross want Sparano to be his head coach or not? And will Sparano forever have this incident to hang over Ross’ head whenever the owner gets an itchy trigger finger in the future?

As an owner, you either believe in your head coach or not. I get that owners may like another head coach’s work, but when you invest millions of dollars in a guy you better have confidence that he can get the job done. And not being able to sign the guy you wanted isn’t a good enough reason to extend your current head coach. Clearly Ross doesn’t have complete confidence in Sparano or else he wouldn’t have tried so hard to bring Harbaugh to Miami.

What a weird situation.

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Are NFL teams starting to cool on Jim Harbaugh?

Stanford Cardinal head coach Jim Harbaugh celebrates winning the 77th Annual Discover Orange Bowl at Sun Life stadium in Miami on January 3, 2011. Stanford defeated Virginia Tech 40-12. UPI/Martin Fried

In the past 24 hours it seems like Jim Harbaugh went from being the hottest name in sports, to being as attractive as one of Kristen Wiig’s deformed characters on “Saturday Night Live.”

It’s hard to know where the Harbaugh rumors start and where they end, but all of a sudden two teams (the Dolphins and Broncos) that were pursuing him as their next head coach suddenly have no interest at all. On Thursday night, Jay Glazer of FOX Sports tweeted that the Dolphins were sticking with Tony Sparano (the man that owner Stephen Ross was so willing to kick to the curb just days ago) and on Friday morning, the Denver Post reported that the Broncos are bowing out of the Harbaugh race, too.

Whose baby did Harbaugh punch in the last 24 hours to make these teams turn and run for the hills?

The fact that the Broncos have backed out isn’t a surprise. As Rotoworld.com points out, they’ve just been a “backburner” team for Harbaugh all along. But the Dolphins’ about-face is strange to say the least.

Ross, GM Jeff Ireland and new football czar Carl Peterson flew cross-country to talk to Harbaugh earlier this week. There were also reports that Ross offered Harbaugh $7-8 million to coach in Miami, which would have made him the highest paid head coach in the NFL. During this time, Miami’s brass left Sparano hanging (which was a bush league move by the way) while courting Harbaugh.

And now they’re out? Hey Tony, we realized that you were the one for us all along? No, it’s over with Jim…we swear?

It doesn’t make sense.

So now we’re back to square one with Harbaugh: It’s between Michigan (his alma mater) and the 49ers (assuming they haven’t backed out since I started writing this post). And I guess we might as well entertain the idea that he’s going to stay at Stanford with Andrew Luck and I don’t know, win another Orange Bowl or something.

My money would be on him winding up at Michigan but at this point, who knows.

Dolphins the new front-runners for Harbaugh?

Miami Dolphins Head Coach Tony Soprano works the sidelines against the Oakland Raiders at the Oakland Coliseum in Oakland, California on November 28, 2010. The Dolphins defeated the Raiders 33-17. UPI/Terry Schmitt

Just when it appeared that the 49ers were the front-runners in the Jim Harbaugh derby, the Dolphins have pulled ahead according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

It’s believed that Miami offered Harbaugh $7-8 million and San Francisco is unwilling to go that high. The 49ers don’t want to get into a bidding war for Harbaugh’s services, so they may drop out of the race entirely.

If the reports are true and the Dolphins have offered Harbaugh $7-8 million a year, it would make him the richest head coach in the NFL. Considering he has zero head coaching experience in the pros, that would make the Miami Dolphins’ brass legally insane.

It appears that Dolphins owner Stephen Ross would rather not breathe than bring Tony Sparano back as his head coach. He’s already traveled cross-country to pitch the job to Harbaugh and according to the NFL Network, he offered Jon Gruden $7 million a year as well. (Gruden turned down the offer.)

If these reports are true, then Ross should do the respectable thing and fire Sparano immediately. If he’s going through all of this trouble to replace him, then obviously he doesn’t believe that Sparano is the right fit for the Dolphins. It’s not fair for Sparano or his staff to stay in limbo while Ross runs around the country trying to find their replacements. (Then again, that’s the business, right?)

If Miami does wind up with Harbaugh, Ross better hope that he can work with GM Jeff Ireland. How many times do we see a hotshot college head coach fail in the NFL because he’s overwhelmed from the start? The first-year head coaches who have had success always have two things: a good quarterback and a GM that knows what he’s doing. Recent examples include Baltimore’s John Harbaugh, Atlanta’s Mike Smith and St. Louis’ Steve Spagnuolo. I guarantee you Harbaugh and Smith wouldn’t have had the success they’ve had the past three years if it weren’t for Joe Flacco and Ozzie Newsome, and Matt Ryan and Thomas Dimitroff. And where would Spagnuolo be if it weren’t for Sam Bradford (who was chosen by GM Bill Devaney)?

Granted, it helps that Harbaugh and Smith were NFL assistants at some point too, but Jimmy Johnson did just fine in Dallas and he was a “college coach.” He couldn’t work with Jerry Jones but at the very least, he had Troy Aikman. Jim Harbaugh won’t succeed with Chad Henne, I don’t care how much money the Dolphins throw at him to fix their situation.

Should the Dolphins fire Tony Sparano?

Tony Sparano is currently in the third year with the Dolphins, which is right around the time front offices start to get antsy about the development of their teams.

Sparano made the playoffs in his first year with Miami but the Dolphins haven’t shown much improvement since. Their defense got remarkably better under new coordinator Mike Nolan, but the offense has been a disaster under playcaller Dan Henning. In fact, only the 2-13 Panthers have scored fewer touchdowns (16) than the Dolphins (25) this season.

Speculation is running rampant that Sparano will be fired by“Black Monday” of next week. ESPN’s Chris Mortensen said that Sparano’s last game with the Dolphins will be this Sunday, although NFL Network’s Michael Lombardi reports that Bill Parcells has convinced owner Stephen Ross to keep Sparano for at least another season.

But if they do fire Sparano, whom will the Dolphins hire as his replacement? Some rumors state that Bill Cowher’s second choice after coaching the Giants would be the Dolphins, but thus far there haven’t been any hard facts to support those claims. And if Cowher doesn’t want to take his talents to South Beach, then the Dolphins could be stuck with either another first-year head coach or a Josh McDaniels-type retread. Would someone like McDaniels really be an improvement over Sparano?

There isn’t just one thing wrong with the Dolphins – it’s a collection of issues that are holding them back. First and foremost, they need a consistent quarterback because Chad Henne isn’t it. They have scattered talent in Brandon Marshall, Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams, but this team lacks an identity offensively. The defense has been fixed, but what happens if Sparano is let go? What happens to Nolan (who is behind Miami’s resurgence on defense)? If the Dolphins fix one leak, they may spring two more.

Of course, Sparano has done very little to prove that he deserves to keep the job. His decision-making (particularly late in games) has been questioned several times this season and he shows an unwillingness to adjust and adapt. Miami’s fourth quarter collapse last week against Detroit didn’t help, nor did its massive struggles this year at home.

The bottom line is that the Dolphins’ brass has a tough decision to make regarding their head coach position. Miami doesn’t want to waste another year if Sparano isn’t the right man for the job but as of now, it doesn’t have any clear-cut choices to replace him either.

Is the pressure already getting to Brandon Marshall in Miami?

MIAMI - AUGUST 14: Wide Receiver Brandon Marshall  of the Miami Dolphins warms up prior to playing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a preseason game at Sun Life Stadium on August 14, 2010 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)

It was only one scrimmage.

It was only one preseason game.

The head coach isn’t even worried, so why should anyone else be?

If those who follow the Dolphins want to take any of the above stances when it comes to Brandon Marshall’s recent struggles in South Beach, I wouldn’t blame them. After all, it’s only the second week of the preseason and we’re still weeks away from the games actually counting.

But given his history with behavioral issues, why wouldn’t people be concerned?

Marshall followed up a poor showing in a scrimmage two weeks ago by dropping the only two passes that were thrown to him during Miami’s first preseason game last weekend. Then, and stop me if you’ve already heard this one, during a practice session on Monday he reportedly dropped a pass in the end zone and then punted it over a fence. He proceeded to stand by himself, sulking on the sidelines afterwards.

Head coach Tony Sparano shrugged off the kicking incident by saying, “I didn’t see it, but I got bigger fish to fry…If he drops them and he gets pissed off at himself about dropping them, I’m okay with that.”

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